Category Archives: Wine Tastings

Cabernets that we are recommending

Plantagenet Wines – 7th April 2015

Serving wine in optimal condition does not happen by accident. At home, we are able to control factors such as the temperature of the wine and also the amount of air exposure that the wine receives prior to drinking (either via decanting or leaving the bottle open).

I also take care to ensure that I use a high-quality wine glass to present the wine in the most favourable light. For years now, the Vinum – Chianti glass from Riedel has been my preferred glass.

Unfortunately, the same care and attention is not always given to wine by others. Examples include: wholesalers who store their wines in an industrial shed with no refrigeration, retailers who display wines in a hot window or in a display cabinet with a halogen light that heats the wine all day.

Restaurants are also hit and miss, with the temperature of the wine being the most common problem (Red wines to warm and white wines to cold). Another bugbear is when wines available by the glass are not fresh. I have been served wines that have been open for four days and have lost all fruit. Sure, the staff are happy to open a fresh bottle if asked, but the customer deserves better.

I do feel sorry though for wineries offering tastings mid-week when customer numbers are low. Having worked hard to produce the wine, there can be a reluctance to discard half-used bottles within a day or two of opening.

The financial implications are obvious. This is a double-edged sword though, as serving oxidised wines will give potential customers a less than ideal experience. The problem is exacerbated during the Australian summer, when high temperatures accelerate the deterioration.

It was a visit to a couple of wineries in late January that really highlighted the effect that this can have. Tasting the red wines at one unnamed winery was a real challenge. The bottles were sitting on the counter and the temperature was over 30 degrees. When combined with a bottle that had been opened for three days, it is not surprising that I did not really appreciate the wines.

My last stop for the day was Plantagenet Winery in Mt Barker, and what a revelation it was. Yes, the tasting room was air-conditioned, but the wines were also stored in optimal condition. For example they have two fridges for to store their tasting wines: one at 12˚C for wines such as the Chardonnay, and another much cooler for the Riesling etc.

Whilst Plantagenet has an extensive range of wines available, this review focusses on the premium wines labelled as Plantagenet, as well as the Juxtapose range, which is aimed at the restaurant market.

Overall, the wines were of very high quality and represent excellent value for money.


Plantagenet – Riesling – 2014 (18). Floral fruit notes on both the nose and palate, yet there is a steely backbone that adds structure. The textural components on the palate are a highlight, with an almost talc-like minerality. The gentle lime-like acidity adds to the excellent length (now or in 10 years) (RRP $25).

Plantagenet – Sauvignon Blanc – Juxtaposed – 2014 (17.5). Tropical fruit characters to the fore on the nose. Whilst the fragrant, floral fruit is the focus here, there is just enough lees and barrel ferment characters to add depth and make this really interesting.

Plantagenet – Chardonnay – 2014 (18). A complex wine. The nose opens with fresh stone-fruit, yet there are attractive worked* notes. The palate is rich, textured and long, opening with melon and stone fruit and finishing with a lick of toasty oak. A mainstream style that will be at its best in a year or two. (RRP $25).

Plantagenet – Pinot Noir – Juxtapose – 2013 (17.5). Fragrant red fruit characters lead the charge, with a savoury undertone redolent of spice. The chewy, textured fruit is allowed to shine here, with little in the way of oak apparent. A touch of mineral-like tannins add depth to the finish. Excellent current drinking. (RRP $28).

Plantagenet – Shiraz (Syrah) – Juxtapose – 2012 (17.5). True to the style of the Juxtapose range, the Syrah shows forward, fresh and vibrant fruit, framed by bright acidity. Good texture, with subtle oak adding depth. The fine acid and tannins carry the finish. Good drinking! (RRP $28).

Plantagenet – Shiraz – 2012 (18.5). Perfumed, ripe red berry fruit characters over licorice and supple spice. The palate stands out for its superb structure. Fine, savoury, tight and firm, yet this retains a degree of approachability. The silky tannins add to the mouthfeel, and the length is exemplary. (RRP $45). A recent bottle of 1996 Shiraz highlighted just how well these wines age.

Plantagenet – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 (18+). Mint, red currant and spice meld together on the nose. The mint carries though to the palate, where it is complemented by delicious, savoury herbal notes. The serious fruit has real depth and, combined with dusty tannins, confers excellent length to the palate. Whilst this needs years to reach its best (and score even higher points), the supple mouthfeel and balance make this approachable now. (RRP $45).

* Worked notes refers to characters that develop as a result of winemaking efforts. This includes the use of oak maturation, barrel fermentation and lees stirring.

New Release White Wine

Reviewed: 10th January 2014

With the warmer weather upon us, I was pleased to be able to look at a cross-section of whites and rosés.  During this tasting, it struck me that there were two distinct brackets to which the wines could be assigned:

  1. Those that were easy-drinking and perfect for consuming on a warm summer’s day.  Imminently satisfying, yet without too much distraction.  (Wines by Peos and Jericho).
  2. More complex/savoury wines.  Perhaps better suited to pairing with food and made for sipping and exploring.  (Wines by The Lane and Shingleback).


Jericho – Fiano – 2013 (17.5).  Lovely, floral fruit with hints of sage and parsley.  The palate is very long and enticing.  Whilst there is some attractive, floral fruit on the palate, this is drier than the Sahara Dessert.  Leaves you wanting (needing) another sip.  Served cold, this will be a knockout this summer.  From the Adelaide Hills.

Shingleback– Viognier – John Foolery – 2013 (17.3).  Lemon and lanolin on the nose, with grassy notes.  Opens to show stonefruit, orange peel and clove.  The palate is full of ripe fruit in a generous, creamy style (probably aided by a degree of barrel fermentation).  Having said that, there is good acidity and apricot kernel astringency that adds substance to the finish.  Powerful, but precise, this is an excellent effort.  (RRP $18).

The Lane – Pinot Gris – Block 2 – 2013 (17).  Golden tinge to colour, typical of pinot gris.  Opens with red fruit, and a touch of bees wax.  The palate is slightly viscous and textured, with a touch of phenolic richness adding complexity.  This is quite a serious wine that appears to have had partial barrel fermentation to add depth and creaminess to the palate.  (RRP $25).

Peos –Verdelho – Four Kings – 2013 (17).  Quite a neutral nose.  The palate is taut and fresh, with gentle citrus and nutty overtones.  Long and balanced, this would make an excellent summer drink.

New Release Whites

Reviewed: 23rd May 2013

The panel looked at a bracket of chardonnays, as well as a selection of aromatic white wines for this tasting. In many ways, the highlight of the tasting was the arneis from Patritti. A distinctive wine of real charm.

For me, the wine of the tasting was the Singlefile Chardonnay, followed by the Swings and Roundabouts. Both very modern and showing excellent handling.

The final bracket was pinot gris/pinot grigio. You might ask what is the difference. As it turns out, there is no difference. It is the same grape, but coming from different regions. Gris from France and grigio from Italy. Traditionally, the styles have been quite different. Gris is made in a fresher, more aromatic style whereas grigio has been made in a dry/neutral style with food being a key consideration.

  • Tasted:        14 wines
  • Reviewed:    6 Wines


Singlefile – Chardonnay – 2011 (18). Subtle minerals, curry leaf and creamy oak compliments the high quality fruit. The palate is restrained, yet the fruit builds and develops. The finish is persistent, long and supple, the oak just sitting over the fruit initially, but settling back with air to add texture and structure. Tight and lean, this will be even better with 3 – 4 years under its belt. Demonstrates excellent winemaking. From Denmark.

Swings & Roundabouts – Chardonnay – Backyard Stories – 2012 (17.5). This has a lovely nose that combines white peach and creamy, mealy notes with cashew nut complexity. On the palate there is excellent fruit characters and decent complexity courtesy of the slick winemaking. There is a seam of grapefruit running right through to the finish, leaving the palate refreshed and ready for another sip. The lovely mouth-feel and real length makes this a joy now or in 3 – 4 years. A leaner, modern style.

Patritti – Arneis – 2012 (17.2). This wine was a real surprise. It starts of quite neutral, dry and savoury, but really built to show a complex array of flavours including apricot, orange peel and perfume. The finish is long and textural. This is an interesting wine possessing real charm. Ideally suited to food, the neutral nature of the wine will work a treat with some pasta or even white fleshed fish. From the Adelaide Hills.

Grant Burge – Pinot Gris – East Argyle – 2012 (17). Quite a creamy nose with some density and possibly a little barrel ferment characters. There is a degree of phenolic richness and viscosity on the palate and there is excellent length, smart acidity and a lovely citrus tang on the finish. This is an excellent drink alone or one to partner with lighter Asian food. True to the “gris” style.

Yalumba – Chardonnay – Y Series – Unwooded – 2012 (16.8). Aromatic and vibrant on both the nose and the palate. There are savoury, stone fruit characters, lemony acid and hints of honeysuckle and spice. A smart little wine that would make an excellent SSB alternative.

Yerring Station – Chardonnay – Village – 2011 (16.8). Quite Chablis like. This has a complex nose that has curry leaf, minerality, nuttiness and subtle stone fruit. The palate is tight and restrained, appearing relatively simple at first, as the lemony acidity and creamy oak suppress the fruit. This wine needs a few years for the fruit to uncoil and express itself.  Reflective of the cool vintage and an enjoyable wine.

Margaret River v Coonawarra

Reviewed: 18th May 2013

Margaret River or Coonawarra? I often ask myself that question when I am purchasing or opening cabernet based wines. Ten years ago, I would also have included Bordeaux in the equation, but the tremendous prices being charged for decent Claret makes Bordeaux an unrealistic option for me.

Fortunately the quality of Australian cabernet has continued to improve and the best local wines are equivalent in quality, if not style, to the best imports. The added benefit of shopping locally is that they are invariably sealed with a screw cap, removing the inherent risks associated with cork.

Whilst the current tasting was an opportunity to look at a selection of aged cabernet-based wines, it also gave me the chance to think about the regions.

One of the biggest differences between the two has been vintage conditions. Margaret River has been blessed with an amazing run of vintages starting with 2007 and continuing right through to 2012. (Early indications are that 2013 will also be very good). Coonawarra, on the other hand, has been on somewhat of a roller coaster ride with the highs being followed by lows. Improved viticulture has helped offset some of the lows, but I think it is a good idea to keep an eye on vintage variations.

Call me a fence sitter, but at the end of the tasting, I decided that I needed to keep space in the cellar for both region’s wines. Margaret River will always be the backbone of my cellar due to a combination of familiarity, availability, quality and consistency. In the great years however, I will always make space for Coonawarra. The wines are distinctive, age-worthy and totally delicious.

Wines tasted: 20

Wines reviewed: 10


Raveneau – Chardonnay – Chablis – 2010 (17.8). This is a complex, serious wine on the nose. There is creamy oak, textural barrel ferment characters and fine, pristine fruit. The finish is very long, with lemony acid the backbone that is fleshed out by a hint of sweetness that further enhances the balance. (The warm-up wine)

Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon – 1991 (18.2). Dense, sweet ripe fruit leaps from the glass. Think mint, eucalypt, cassis and red berries. There are hints of earth and leather courtesy of the bottle age adding to the great length and lovely texture. There is new-world density to the fruit, but old-world complexity and structure. Lovely drinking.

Wynns – Cabernet Sauvignon – John Riddoch – 1991 (17.8). Remarkable contrast to the Cape Mentelle, as this is fresh and vibrant, yet tight and restrained. There are hints of blueberry, mint, cherry, cinnamon and supple, cedary oak. A powerful wine, yet one that is balanced and restrained. Very long and near seamless, the ever-so-fine tannins providing a sprinkling of dust across the finish.

Sandalford – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2003 (18). This wine really impresses for its sweet, ripe fruit. At ten years of age, there are plenty of dark fruit characters with a touch of mint and eucalyptus. The palate is dense, structured and tannic, needing another 5 – 10 years to really unwind. There is structured oak to close. This is a powerful wine.

Wise – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Bramley – 2003 (18). This is a much softer interpretation on Margaret River cabernet compared to the Sandalford, with red fruits the primary character. There are hints of oak in the background and the very fine tannins build at the very end of the palate. The tannins are actually quite firm suggesting that this wine will still evolve, but it is in its drinking window now.

Coriole – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Mary Kathleen – 1999 (18). This wine has really intense fruit with complex savoury highlights. Think coffee, cinnamon and spice. The palate is textured and long finishing with very fine tannins and supple oak. In the mouth, this is supple, savoury, spicy, fragrant and long. Delicious now, this is an elegant wine from McLaren Vale showing excellent cabernet typicity, yet also some clear regional characters.

Wynns – Cabernet Sauvignon – John Riddoch – 1999 (17.8). Opens with mint over red fruits. This is elegant and drinking very well. There are hints of blackcurrant over cedar and spice on the palate. The finish is fine and long, with the acid cutting through the silky structure. The tannins are amazingly soft and add to the texture. This wine will be a great foil to food.

Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstone  – 1999 (18.5). Compared to the Wynns, this has much more obvious ripe fruit characters. Blackcurrant, cinnamon, spice, mint, eucalypt and subtle, textural oak all meld into a fantastic package on the palate. Whilst refined and elegant, there is tremendous power and length to the fruit. Superb!

Parker Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc – First Growth – 1998 (18.2). This wine approaches drinking perfection. There are fragrant red fruits, supple spice and silky tannins which combine to make this oh-so-easy to drink. The excellent length of flavours is a highlight and the fruit is very persistent. The tannins build on the finish providing the texture to accompany fine food.

Petaluma – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc – 1998 (18.3). Reserved and shy compared to the Parker, this is a superb wine of the highest quality. The palate is dense, ripe, textured and powerful. There are hints of fresh herbs and wonderful fruit. Very structured, yet almost seamless.


Moderisation of Italian Wines

Dr Brendan Jansen

5 December 2009

Over the past 7 months here in Italy (and when I was in Rioja last week) I have frequently heard wines described as “modern” or “traditional” in style. I suspect this is a peculiar Old World issue, as “growing up” in the world of Australian wine, most styles were, almost by definition, modern.

What does the distinction mean here? I have come to understand that the term “modern” refers to a style of wine which is different to that produced by the region. It implies new and different winemaking techniques to attain such a style.

In the case of Sangiovese, and Chianti in particular, the traditional style has been a medium bodied wine with fine dusty tannins, high acidity, and bright cherry fruit characters, without any dominant influence of oak treatment. The more modern style involves more heavily extracted wines with deeper and denser fruit, even in the stewed plum spectrum, with use of oak to augment the tannic structure.

The drift to “modernisation” does not always flow towards creating a denser wine. In the case of Barolo for example, while the nebbiolo grape was traditionally fermented on its skins for up to two months and then aged in large oak or chestnut barrels (boti), these days, many producers limit skin contact to around the norm for red wine of about 17 days, leave the wine in wood for the minimum time allowed by law (for it to be classified as a Barolo) and often use small barrels. This results in wine that is far more approachable when young, and drinkable earlier than the 10 or twenty years one would have had to wait in the past.

What should we make of this drift towards the norm (part of what is sometimes referred to the “Parkerisation” of wine)? (By the way, I met Robert Parker as I was one who assisted at his grand Tasting at the Winefuture conference in Spain – a Grenache tasting with 538 people! More of that at a later date…).

Firstly, the positives. It has brought winemaking in the Old World into the 21st century, so that areas like Bordeaux are in fact the leaders in innovation when it comes to wine technology. There has been a revolution in quality (not solely because of this tendency to change of style of course). Spain is a fantastic example. The wines I tasted from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Toro and other regions were fantastic. A far cry from the fruit-less, partially oxidised Gran Riservas of the past. In fact the old distinctions of “crianza, riserva, …etc” are becoming defunct. Use of American oak has given way to use of French oak in Spain.

Marques de Riscal now has a new line of wines, with flashy new and modern labelling, very different to their traditional wines (which they still produce of course). In a previous post I mentioned Chianti Classici of a more traditional style, and those of a more modern disposition.

Are there any negatives to these developments? In my opinion there certainly are. It is clear that many wines are being manufactured (and I use the word deliberately) to suit some sort of international palate. To be honest I find it difficult to distinguish a Sangiovese from a Temperanillo from a Shiraz on occasion, when made in a rich, fruit- and oak-laden style. I, for one, was first attracted to Old World wines because they were NOT fruit bombs, with 14.5%+ alcohol, but instead had complex, savoury characters without the fruit and oak dominating. (Hopefully, for the purposes of the Master of Wine tasting examinations, traditional and iconic examples of certain regions will still make an appearance!)

The phenomenon has also resulted in more “international” varieties being planted (not at the expense, I hope, of rare and quirky autochthonous* vines). What a shame if the wines of Bierzo in Spain (with varieties like Mencia), or a the wines of the Mount Etna region in Sicily (Nerello Mascalese) were to be relegated in consumers’ choice and never ever sampled… Is this the death of terrior!

What are your thoughts?

Until next time, ciao!

Brendan Jansen

* Editors Note – According to the Oxford Dictionary of English, autochthonous is an adjective meaning “(of an inhabitant of a place) indigenous rather descended

Thinking of visiting Burgundy?

A Boot-full of Wine

Tasting notes from Italy (and beyond)

2 May 2011

While I do not claim to be an expert on Burgundy or its wines, I can say that I have had a long-held passion for Burgundian pinot noir. After my recent and only visit to Burgundy, I can now say my passion extends to the place also.

Beaune almost bisects the Cote d’Or, with the line separating the Cote de Beaune from the Cote de Nuits a little north of it, and is a great base from which to explore the area. A small town, well set up for wine enthusiasts, it has a myriad of boutique wine shops, traditional restaurants and accommodation options. Beaune itself is a short train ride from Dijon, in turn accessible from Paris (about 2 hours by train).

I chose to stay in a bed and breakfast close to the centre of the town of Beaune, and do not think I could have made a better choice. The rooms offered by Chez Marie were clean and well decked out – at a 4-star hotel standard. Her breakfasts – replete with fantastic coffee, crispy French bread and home made preserves – gave me the sustenance required for the days of wine tasting and touring that followed.

As for a tour operator, I do not think that you can find a better one than Cristina Otel and her partner Christian Knott. Both are winemakers in their own right, Christian hails from Sydney, and both have worked vintages in Margaret River and France. Their company, Taste Burgundy, organizes tours for those with more than a modicum of knowledge about the area and its wines. A third staff member has just joined their team.

They are able to book appointments for you directly with producers, and drive you to them, providing translation while there. In truth, much more is provided – Cristina’s interest is in giving you a complete cultural experience of the area, including visits to the markets and specialty shops, the important Grand Cru vineyard sites, and the Hospices de Beaune (once a charitable almshouse and now a museum, and a must see).

Cristina and Christian’s passion for the wines of Burgundy, their attention to detail, and ability to put both hosts and clients at ease, makes for an in-depth experience.

What then will you find when you visit the local producers? Here, our focus was on small vignerons, and not large negociants. Well, there are those who vinify their pinot noir with a proportion of whole bunches and those who do not. There are those who use a majority of new oak, and others who do not. Some who use battonage for their whites while others who do not. Some who do a cold pre-fermentation maceration. You will find a range of fermentation temperatures and times employed. And all will tell you that what they do depends on the vintage and the quality of the fruit.

So you will encounter many a formula of how to make good red and white Burgundy. However, and most importantly, each producer will have a well thought out philosophy guiding his/her thinking. As an example, Thierry Violot-Guillemard uses 80% new oak for his pinot noir, yet the oak flavours are in no way overwhelming – he uses oak which has been seasoned for a lengthy 4 years. His reasoning? It allows him to leave his wines on its lees without having to rack or disturb the wine – both malolactic fermentation and sur lie are reductive processes – the newer oak results in greater oxidation as a counter, and therefore he does not have to touch the wines. He believes the less the wine is handled the better. The result? Silky powerful pinot noir, stunning at each quality level.

Those who made the greatest impression? Thibault Liger Belair – a young, and up and coming genius, who works biodynamically, for the sheer restrained power and complexity of his reds. Thierry Violot-Guillemard – for his engaging personal story, his warm generosity, and his silky pinot noirs. Blair Pethel (Domaine Dublere) – an American turned Burgundian – for his linear and true wines, especially his whites. And Gérald Cacheux (at Domaine René Cacheux) for his down-to-earth personality and down-to-earth wines.

Ciao for now!

Brendan Jansen

Aged White Wines

Whites – Mixed

Reviewed: 10 February 2011

With Summer in full swing, our group embarked on a tasting of quality whites that were a few years old. We ended up with an eclectic selection of (very) high quality wines.


Bruno Sorg – Riesling – Pfersigberg – Grand Cru – 2003 (17.5). Lovely oily texture, a hint of residual sugar and fresh acid makes for a lovely wine. Has a hint of floral notes and the very creamy, high quality oak rounds out the finish. Smart, seamless and beautifully crafted. From Alsace.

Clairault – Chardonnay – 2006 (17.3). Perfectly ripe fruit on the nose with pineapple overtones. The oak is evident on the palate, though there are some tropical fruit notes underneath. Opens with air, developing butterscotch and stonefruit. Gets better and will settle further with age.

Moss Wood – Chardonnay – 2004 (17.8). Seamless and beautifully balanced, this is a superb wine. The texture and mouth-feel are spot on and the finish is near seamless. The quality oak merely caresses the finish on the close and the length is driven by the elegant fruit.

Leasingham – Riesling – Classic Clare – 2005 (17.7). Lovely riesling that is fresh, lively, floral, vibrant, seamless, long and intense. This is a very fine wine of real class. Excellent length. Is showing the first signs of age, but is still very youthful.

Sonoma Cutrer – Chardonnay – Russian River Ranchs – 2008 (17.8). Another superb wine. This is a richer style with plenty of quality winemaking inputs. Think creamy oak, lees stirring and (partial?) malo-lactic fermentation. Again, the mendoza clone is evident, but the pineapple fruit characters are well handled. There are plenty of stonefruit notes and almond to close.

Domain Emilan Gillet – Chardonnay – Quintaine – Vire-Clesse – 2002 (18.2). Very interesting wine. Superb palate with great length. It is the exhilarating acid that makes the finish so memorable. Lemon brullee, texture and spice on a palate that builds and evolves. Excellent chablis with minerals to burn. At its peak.

Domaine Chandon De-Brialles – Chardonnay – Corton – Grand Cru – 2005 (18). Very creamy nose, this wine is a highlight. Intense and powerful, there is still a degree of restraint. Superb fruit, the wine really builds and is classically structured. The minerality on the palate is superb.

Penfolds – Chardonnay – Bin 06A – 2006 (17.5+). Wow. Amazing wine. Young and fresh, the high quality fruit and oak are evident, but not integrated. Has a long future, but needs five to ten years to peak.

Alain Gautheron – Chardonnay – Chablis – Vaucaupin – 1er Cru – 2005 (18.3). A superb wine here. Very tight and fresh, this is a seamless version of fine burgundy. Refined, this is delicate and very fine. Needs years, but enjoyable now. Amazing Chablis.

Rene Lequin-Colin – Chardonnay – Batard-Montrachet – Grand Cru – 2002 (18). Honeyed, long and rich, this is a developed but delightful wine of class and pedigree.

Heidi Schrock – Welsch Riesling/Pinot Gri/Pinot Blanc/Chardonnay – Ruster Ausbruch – 2005 (18.5). Apricot to the fore on the nose, this is really rich and enticing. Wow, immensely intense, yet beautifully balanced and refined. Botrytis to the fore, but the balance is special. Superb!

Guiraut – Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – Saturnes – 1er Cru – 1997 (18). Very cold. Pungent and raisin-like on the nose, this is a less mainstream and less sweet style that is refreshing yet spicy. As it warms, this opens to show viscosity and texture. Shows lots of almond meal and cashew with air. Delicious.

Le Mont – Chenin Blanc – Vouvray – Molleux – 1997 (17.5). Bread dough and a touch of ferment notes. Shines on the palate with great line and length. This is a very precise wine, that is aged and long. Complex, this really builds in the mouth. Drying finish, this is a delicate wine that shows spice to close. Won’t appeal to everyone, but worth trying.

Castagnia – Viognier – Aqua Santa – NV (17.7). Complex and developed, this is a very intense wine.

Last Sunday Tasting Group

31 January 2010

Aromatic White Wines

As many of you know, this tasting group is the highlight of my tasting life. Good friends and fantastic wines – what could be better? This tasting was made even more special by the temporary return of Brendan Jansen from his Italian hideaway.

Having been set a theme of Aromatic White Wine by Brendan, I had to stop and think – what is an aromatic white? The consensus amongst the group was that everything other than chardonnay and semillon would be OK.

Having a tasting with mainly European wine proved a little challenging, as they have different characteristics and it takes a while for my palate to adjust. Interestingly, the wines were more fragile than I would have expected with most having fallen over by the next day. Perhaps this reflects the wine-making styles and is only a problem if you do not finish the bottle.


Max Ferd. Richter – Riesling – Kabinett – Braunberger Juffer – 2000 (18.5). Starts dry and fresh, but has lovely oily fruit and developed characters. The palate has gorgeous Germanic riesling fruit that is super long and focused. The residual sugar is perfectly matched to the lovely acid. Great mouth feel. Reflects the cabinet style well.

Conrail – Riesling – 2009 (18). Very aromatic with lovely citrus overtones. Whilst still quite closed, there is a stunning floral attack on the palate with lemony acid on a long finish. Very morish.

Palacio De Fefinanes – Albarino De Fefinanes – 2007 (18). Almond, apricot, grapefruit and peaches too. The palate is oily and textured with lovely mouth feel. Silky and very long. A lovely wine and surprisingly delicate.

Felton Road – Riesling – 2006 (17.8). A touch more austere to start with compared to the Richter, but the palate is an explosion of ripe fruit with fresh and vibrant acid nicely balanced. Very long, fresh and delicious drinking. A late picked style.

Palacio De Fefinanes – Albarino De Fefinanes – 2008 (17.7). Lemon butter and rind. Long and textured with excellent mouth feel. really builds in the mouth. From Rias Baixas in Spain.

Paul Zinck – Gewertztraminer – Eichberg Grand Cru – 2006 (17.7). Musk and spice lead the attack on the nose. with lychees and almond meal. The palate is incredibly oily and viscous with apricot and lychees. The residual sugar is well balanced by fresh acidity.

Domane Wachau – Riesling – Federspiel – Bruck – 2001 (17.5). Better balance and structure than the 1999, and with less obvious botrytis. Some toast and oiliness on a developed nose. The palate is long, fine and oily, with a touch of spritz. A good drink.

Jean Lionnet – Cotes du Rhone Blanc – Saint Per ay – 2002 (17.5). Creamy and elegant with well judged lees and malo characters. The palate has lovely apricot fruit and the creamy oak is well integrated. Despite all this, the long palate is quite lean, yet spicy. An unusual wine, but great drinking.

De Bortoli – Viognier – 2006 (17). I was not aware that De Bortoli released a viognier. A good effort, with some varietal character.

Pieropan – Soave – 2008 (17). Soave is a blend of indigenous white grapes, and this showed well. Lifted ripe citrus nose, with some herbal characters. The palate has lemon sorbet and lychees. The finish is long, but angular and drying. A challenging wine that is worth trying.

Clonakilla – Riesling – 2007 (16.8). Starts off dry and austere, but has a touch of sherbet, spritz and spice on the palate. The austerity continues through to the end of the palate. Challenging style.

Dry River – Pinot Gris – 2008 (16.9). More pungent with passionfruit fruit. The palate has sweet fruit and a good dose of residual sugar. Long, spicy fragrant and textured. Good mouthfeel too. Quite fragile, so drink soon.

Domane Wachau – Riesling – Federspiel – Bruck – Viesslinger Ried – 1999 (16.5). Honey and orange peel to start from some botrytis influence. Very long with good acidity. This is viscous and oily. (Not the best bottle I have tried).

Bress – Heathcote Shiraz – Vertical Tasting

Reviewed: 29 July 2012

It is not very often that you get to do a vertical tasting of a single wine. It is even more unusual to be able to taste every vintage ever made. When the winemaker flies over from Melbourne to attend because he has never seen every vintage at the same time, then you know you are in for a special evening.

And so it was that I ended up in the home of my good friends David and Tracy, to taste through 11 vintages of the Bress Heathcote Shiraz. (They also make shirazes from Harcourt and Bendigo). David Marks, the winemaker at Bress and wife Lynne came over for the event and brought tank/barrel samples of the yet to be bottled 2011 and 2012 vintage.

Adam is a real character and I could easily write an article just on him. I will leave that for another day though, as the focus of the tasting was the wine.

Whilst the wine has been produced since 2002, there have been a few changes along the way that have contributed to the ongoing development and success of the wines. The first two vintages were under cork, but from 2004, all wines have been bottled under screw cap. Also since 2004, the vineyard composition for the wine has evolved and changed. The third big change happened in 2006, when the winery moved to Bio-dynamic farming.

So what about the wines? The quality of the wines was excellent, with the best (2006 &2009) being superb and worthy of gold medal points. The vintage variations combined with the changing viticulture really allowed each wine to speak of the place and vintage from which they came.

Of interest was how well the wines were drinking. All wines were double decanted prior to the tasting and even the young wines drank beautifully with dinner. Adam stated that he was trying to produce wines more akin to wines from the Rhone and the savoury characters certainly supported this aim.

A special thanks must go to David and Tracy for sourcing all the wines and hosting a memorable dinner.


Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2002 (17.7). Brick red, this is showing developed characters, yet remains very dense. Earthy and mature, with dark fruits, there is still plenty of life to the fruit on the nose. The palate still shows bright fruit with licorice, plum and spice. The finish is long and balanced, with good acid to carry the soft tannins through to the finish. There is not great depth to the fruit on the mid palate, but this proved an excellent foil to roast meats on the night.

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2003 (N.R.). This had hints of oxidized characters and appeared a little old-fashioned. There was some plum and chocolate fruit on a palate that was drying. I can’t help but wonder if this bottle was a touch oxidized. Luckily, the winery moved to screw cap with the 2004 vintage.

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2004 (17.2). 2004 saw a change of vineyard to the Camelback vineyard and a move to screw cap. Fresher fruit on display here, with pepper, chocolate and spice. Starting to show the first signs of development on the nose. The palate has richer fruit in the plum and chocolate spectrum. The length and texture on the finish are good and the acid confers plenty of life. The fruit and oak tannins are just starting to dry out on the finish, but this is a very enjoyable wine that is drinking very well now.

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2005 (17.8). This is a vibrant wine that is full of life. The fruit is forward on the nose, showing an amalgam of pepper, leather, chocolate and spice. The palate has more of the peppery fruit, with quality oak adding depth and complexity. Lovely acidity carries the finish. An excellent drink and the first made in the Bress winery.

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2006 (18.5). The first vintage with bio-dynamic certification. This was a cooler year and the fruit flavours reflect this, however the tannins are perfectly ripe. The palate is vibrant and focused, with plenty of the chocolaty, peppery fruit that seems to typify the style of this wine. The finish is still somewhat chewy, courtesy of the whole bunch fermentation, but this adds to the charm of the wine. The excellent fruit combined with slick tannin management makes this a star.

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2007 (16.8). A fascinating nose here. A riper year with perfumed fruit that is tending to the stewed plum spectrum. The palate is rich and ripe, showing cinnamon, spice and licorice. The finish is warmer, again reflecting the year. A touch atypical, but had plenty of supporters.

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2008 (17.8). A very seductive wine this. Rich and dense, the plush fruit has lovely chocolaty overtones. The palate is flooded with textured fruit that has trademark pepper to close. A wine for earlier consumption and one of the favourites on the night. (David tells me that a second bottle of this was required as this was so popular with dinner).

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2009 (18.3+). Another cooler vintage, and another superb wine. Fresh and vibrant, there are pretty red fruits with lovely floral highlights. The palate, whilst focused, has lovely perfumed fruit that hints at violets. This is a wine of great poise and balance, with excellent length and fine tannins. Lovely now, but will be even better in 5 years.

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2010 (17.5+). Closed and tight, this is all potential right now. The nose is perfumed and silky, with savoury highlights. Very youthful, the palate carries the perfumed fruit and pepper, cherry and juicy red fruits. Softer than the 09, this saw 100% de-stemming due to the vintage conditions. An excellent drink!

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2011 (N.R.). I struggled to assess this as it is very tight and closed. There are, however, the trademark tannins and acid. This was a tank sample and I would like to see this again when it is released, as the wine has potential. This was also a crowd favourite on the night.

Bress – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2012 (N.R.). Still has some of the ferment characters on the nose, but there is no doubting the quality of the fruit on this wine. The palate balances silky fruit with great structure and length. Destined to be a superstar!


30th August 2009

As I have mentioned before, the “Last Sunday” tasting group that I belong to provides a real highlight each month. The quality of the wines is usually superb, and the members are great value.

Terry James hosted the August tasting and our theme was non South Australian shiraz. This is a very broad topic, and saw a diverse range of wines. One wine that appeared several times from various vintages was the Peel Estate. This is a wine that can look awkward and clunky when young, but this tasting highlighted that these wines age superbly.

Unfortunately, this tasting was on the same day as the City to Surf Marathon, and I was still not thinking very clearly by the time the tasting started. Take my comments and marks with a grain of salt. The results could have been much worse if it was not for Terry’s excellent hearty cooking. Great work!


JabouletLa Chappelle – 1998 (18.5). This is seriously good. There are plums, prunes, spice and licorice. The plums and licorice continue on the complex palate. Silky tannins with some developed characters frame the finish. Superb wine.

Peel Estate – Shiraz – 1994 (18.5). Superb fruit and great structure. Dense and ripe, with liquorice notes. The palate is long, powerful, silky, refined and tight. Great length and intensity.

Bailey’s1920’s Block – Shiraz -1996 (18). Lovely lifted fruit with savoury notes. Still tight. The palate is grippy, long and structured with spice and anise. Excellent balance.

CastagneGenesis – Shiraz – 2001 (18). Warm and generous. Spice and licorice. The palate is big and textured with extracted developed characters. A touch of VA adds complexity. Meaty wine.

Mathilde et Yves Gangloff – Cote Rotie – 1998 (18). Focused, ripe and complex. Cedary oak still apparent. Ripe cool climate fruit to the fore with black current, camphor, cedar and some meaty characters. Viognier adds lift.

Murdoch JamesSaleyard – Syrah – 2006 (18). Dense, ripe and full of licorice, spice and cedar oak influences. White pepper, red currant and cherries too. The palate has superb structure and length, but the oak dominates the finish right now.

Peel Estate – Shiraz – 2000 (18). Remarkably elegant and fine. Cooler red fruits to open, with a touch of menthol. This is perfumed and silky. Just hitting its straps.

Vasse Felix – Shiraz – 2000 (18). Sweet ripe fruit here with mocha notes. The palate starts off quite lean but builds intensity. Textured ripe fruit that becomes really succulent. Souring finish is crying out for food.

Cape Mentelle – Shiraz – 1996 (17.8). Spice, leather and cedar on the nose. The palate is developed, with spice, anise and leathery characters. Obvious age.

CJ PaskGimblett Road – Shiraz -2006 (17.6). Starts off closed and subdued. Demonstrates clear cool climate fruit. The palate starts quite lean and fine, but opens to show bright fruit with some pepper and spice. Supple oak to close. An elegant and refined wine.

HoughtonsFrankland – Shiraz – 1999 (17.5). Some aged characters on the nose, but with some cool fruit characters and a touch of dried herbs. The palate is soft and round and really builds in the mouth. There are earthy and leathery characters on the savory finish.

Clonakilla – Viognier – 2006 (17.5). Apricots to open with creamy floral notes. The palate is viscous and really long, with the floral fruit following through. Almond meal to close with a touch of oak to add complexity. Smart.

Peel Estate – Shiraz – 1995 (17.5). Licorice, leather and cinnamon spice. This is a robust wine with sweet warm fruit. Plush, long, dense and seamless. Fine tannins to close. For lovers of big shiraz.

Red Hill Estate – Shiraz – 2002 (17.4). A cooler style with pepper and cumin. The palate is fine, long, rich and textured. Lots of pepper to close. All the usual wine making inputs.

Bailey’s – Shiraz – 1996 (17). More developed than the 1920’s Block. Leather and spice with fresh acid on the finish. A good wine.

Cape Mentelle – Shiraz – 1999 (17). Leaner leathery style. Long precise palate.